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Random Violence, Legitimate Grievances, and High Horses: ISIS Burned Up To 40 People Alive, Says Iraqi Official

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(CNN)Reports that ISIS burned alive up to 40 people near the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s Anbar province are true, an Iraqi official told CNN on Wednesday.

Anbar provincial council chairman Sabah Karkhout said he was advised by his field commanders near the al-Baghdadi front line that ISIS militants killed at least 40 police officers and tribesman, and that most of the victims were “burned to death.”

Burn Kids

ISIS seized control of most of the town last week. It’s just nine miles north of the Ayn al-Asad airbase, where some 400 U.S. military personnel are stationed to train Iraqi pilots in the fight against ISIS.

CNN cannot independently confirm that the people were burned to death.

Iraqi Security Forces have given accounts in situation reports obtained by CNN that speak of Iraqi forces and tribesmen killed by ISIS, but it was not clear whether their bodies burned before or after their deaths.

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ISIS has not published any images of the reported killings as they have frequently done in the past.

At a news briefing Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said he’d heard about the reported killings, adding that the United States had purported images of the incident that were being analyzed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Airstrikes Fail to Slow Islamic State in Syria

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Militant Group Has Gained Territory, Raising Concerns of the Obama Administration’s Mideast Strategy

WASHINGTON— Dion Nissenbaum writes: More than three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria have failed to prevent Islamic State militants from expanding their control in that country, according to U.S. and independent assessments, raising new concerns about President Barack Obama ’s military strategy in the Middle East.

“While U.S. bombing runs and missile strikes have put Islamic State forces on the defensive in Iraq, they haven’t had the same kind of impact in Syria.”

While U.S. bombing runs and missile strikes have put Islamic State forces on the defensive in Iraq, they haven’t had the same kind of impact in Syria. Instead, jihadist fighters have enlarged their hold in Syria since the U.S. started hitting the group’s strongholds there in September, according to the new estimates.

OH-Well

Islamic State’s progress in Syria is partly the result of the U.S. decision to focus its military efforts on Iraq, where the militant group has seized major parts of the country and declared them part of a new Islamic caliphate. The U.S.-led military effort has pushed the forces out of some key battlegrounds in Iraq.

“Certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective. I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”

— Senior Defense Official

But Syria still serves as a haven for Islamic State fighters, also known in the West by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

The assessments come as the Obama administration is considering whether the U.S. should embrace more aggressive ideas for containing Islamic State forces in Syria. Some administration officials have been pushing the U.S. to once again rethink its “Iraq-first” strategy and focus more attention on Syria, including training thousands of Syrian fighters to take on the feared group. Read the rest of this entry »